Trade show exhibition can be a daunting expense. Adequately preparing your budget ahead of time is of critical importance to understanding the costs, and ultimately to calculating ROI for the show project. Generating a budget can be a challenge. Here, you’ll find information which may serve to assist in baseline planning; general guidelines for budgetary estimates. Every individual show, exhibit and client presents unique considerations, so this information is intended as a non-specific guide to assist in your preparations.
Trade show exhibits are extremely complicated with many cost components, as so many things must come together to create the optimum experience in the exhibit. Not only are there a variety of material considerations that go into the cost of a trade show, the costs of doing business vary dramatically between host cities. Sometimes, just remembering all the vendors can be a challenge! Premade TRADE SHOW BUDGET TEMPLATES and guides can help capture all of the considerations.
According to CENTER FOR EXHIBITION INDUSTRY RESEARCH (CEIR) the cost of exhibit space is the largest portion of any exhibit expense. Space rental comprises a whopping 38% of the average budget… and that percentage is increasing each year. On average, the exhibit space rental consumes more budget than exhibit design, graphics, show services and travel combined.
The general rule of thumb states that the final total should work out to 3 times the cost of show floor space. If the cost of your space rental is $30,000, your total budget will likely be about $90,000. Of course, you will need to work with your accounting department to be sure you’re capturing everything correctly.
As you plan your show, keep in mind that the EXPERIENTIAL DESIGNERS AND PRODUCERS ASSOCIATION (EDPA) estimates that the costs for the average custom exhibit are roughly $140 to $150 per square foot of designed space. It’s important to remember, though, that these are average estimates. Actual results can vary greatly based on materials, design choices, revisions and the policies of your agency partner. A solid design and fabrication partner will help with cost containment wherever possible, offering options like rental, refinishing and lighting changes to refresh and modify existing properties without the expense of new builds.
In addition to design and fabrication, full-service agencies like Acer can provide on-site show supervision, coordinate show services and shipping, and even help with promotions and off-site events. Be sure you understand how the agency is charging, and ask for detail on which components may change.
One of the largest variables to budget is show city. For example, straight time general labor averages at about $67 per hour in Louisville, but in New York City the same rate averages $197 per hour. The US average is $103.50 with actual rates everywhere in between. Huge differences in rates like these can cause large budget variances if not accounted for during planning. This EDPA guide to labor rates in cities around the country can indicate what to expect based upon the location of the show.
No matter how you set your budget, be conservative! Most firms tend to add a ten percent wiggle factor. This does seem high, but consider again all of the moving parts that go into a trade show. For example, a delay in material transfers can incur much higher labor rates in overtime or even double time on specialized labor expenses, such as electrical.
As you budget for your next trade show, keep these guidelines at hand to help manage the process. Good luck!